Former medical examiner called for Chauvin defense is being sued for misdiagnosis

PBS NewsHour / YouTube Dr. David Fowler

The highlight of the Derek Chauvin trial on Wednesday was the testimony of the former Maryland Chief Medical Examiner Dr. David Fowler.  Fowler is currently the focus of a lawsuit brought by the Maryland ACLU on behalf of the family of Anton Black, who have accused him of misdiagnosing Black’s death in an effort to clear the state and law enforcement.

“In my opinion, Mr. Floyd died from a sudden cardiac arrhythmia.,” Fowler said on the witness stand. He told the jurors to “write that down.”

He also testified that there were several contributing factors to Floyd’s death, which included hypertension, a preexisting heart condition, a narrow coronary artery, fentanyl and meth,  paraganglioma, and carbon monoxide he may have inhaled while on the ground near the tailpipe of the police vehicle.

Fowler told prosecutor Jerry Blackwell that as medical examiner, he would rule Floyd’s death “undetermined” because of all of the contributing factors surrounding Floyd’s death.

Under cross-examination by Blackwell, Fowler backed off carbon monoxide as a factor when it was pointed out that he came to that conclusion without knowing whether or not the car was running.

Dr. Fowler’s testimony conflicted with prosecution medical experts who concluded that Floyd died as a result of not being able to get enough oxygen because he was pinned under Chauvin’s knee while in the prone position and handcuffed for over nine minutes. Most of them concluded that he died of asphyxia.

Fowler conceded under cross-examination that Floyd had died, “long, long before” the  emergency room doctor had  pronounced him dead, and that he could have been revived if Chauvin or other officers at the scene had given him “immediate medical attention.”

The medical expert testified that Chauvin’s knee on Floyd’s body was not a contributing factor.  But when pressed by Blackwell, he acknowledged that going without oxygen for four minutes could cause irreversible brain damage which could stop the heart.

“If a person dies as a result of low oxygen, that person is also going to die ultimately of a fatal arrhythmia, right?” Blackwell asked Fowler. Fowler responded that everyone in the room will have a fatal arrhythmia at some point.”

 Fowler resigned from his office in 2019 in the midst of controversy over his medical reports involving those who perished during police interactions, for which he is being sued.

The lawsuit said that Fowler and his assistant “intentionally concealed police responsibility in causing Anton Black’s painful death, and instead falsely ruled, on behalf of the State of Maryland, that a Black teenager who died through asphyxiation at the hands of four White men resulted from ‘natural causes,’ or ‘accident’ thereby improperly insulating police officials from responsibility for Anton’s death,” the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit notes the similarity between Black’s death and Floyd’s. “Two years before George Floyd died after being restrained and pinned down by police, 19- year-old Anton Black was killed by three White law enforcement officials and a White civilian in a chillingly similar manner on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.”

“My brother would have continued breathing if not for his interaction with the police. She said her brother was in excellent shape he was an athlete,” said LaToya Holley sister of Anton Black.